Genesis 12:1-4a and an Excerpt from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt at Sorbonne, Paris, on April 23, 1910
Sunday March 5th, 2023
By Rev. Nicole Lamarche
Welcome again on this glorious day in March and boy this has been one of the longest winters in my life! We are leaning toward spring! Today in our tradition it is the second Sunday of Lent, which is for us a season of examination and for us this year, we are calling it the Holy Pause.
In that spirit, I invite you now to create an internal pause for yourself, for your heart and your soul, to take some deeper breaths as you are moved, to let yourself arrive here a bit more fully, as we each aim to hear whatever word God has for us this day. And I offer this prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Go! That is the first thing God says to Abram. Go from the land that you know, go from your people and the place that has been in your family forever, go not just leaving behind what you know, but go with me to a land you know nothing about.
God is asking him to leave everything behind and to be willing to go somewhere he has never been before…
And as this ancient story goes, in return, the Divine One promises that blessings will be sure to come, and that if all goes as planned, God tells him that great nations will emerge from this very moment, from this man, from this momentous decision of whether or not to go. Now the text doesn’t tell us how much time passes before the decision is made, but it tells us he went.
And I wonder why? Why did he choose to go? How did he know it was the right thing to do? Did he need weeks to pray about it and consult the wise people in his life? Is that part of the story just left out? Or did he just have clarity that it would be worth it right there and he just went? How do we know when it is the voice of a Higher Power or whatever name we have for It? How do we know when it is that voice and not our egos or our chattering minds or our fears? How did Abram know it was God telling him what to do in the first place? I think I am not the only one who would be leery of people saying God told them to do something.
We find ourselves in this season of Lent where we are turning in a little more deeply: an invitation from the Universe is before us to slow down and in some places maybe even to stop so we can hear beyond the surface. And in our United Church of Christ, progressive Christian context we often say that God is still speaking. But we don’t often get to the next question: are we listening?
How do we know when the Universe is pulling us to make a change? To make a move? To go deeper? To go? The meaning of the word Go in Hebrew and how it is used throughout the Bible is to make progress. To advance. To proceed. So maybe translated into our 2023 context perhaps what this story is asking us now is How do we know when the Divine or Spirit or God is asking us to pass from one place to another? How do we know when it’s time to go? To go out beyond where we are right now, to the next stage or the next stop?
I can’t say I know what it is like to have an experience where the existence of a whole nation was hanging on your yes or no. Does anyone have that experience? I don’t know what it’s like to have a decision so big like that before me, but I do know what it is like to feel like you are pulled or lured toward something. Does anybody else have that experience? Where even if you want to ignore it you can’t? At a certain point. It just keeps coming.
I have shared before that I want to get it right, so sometimes I have trouble making decisions because I want to get all of the information. When I was in college and reading every book I could find from the Jesus Seminar which is the group of people focused on what Jesus was really thought to have said. At the time it was groundbreaking stuff by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crosson, and I just read everything I could get my hands on. I started to attend the First Congregational Church of Tucson and every Bible Study offered.
My first campus minister was this sweet retired Disciples of Christ minister named Mary and one day she asked me if I had thought about seminary and I said no I hadn’t. I grew up in the church but I had never seen a woman in that role so I just didn’t have that mental map until the very end of high school when we had an Interim named Valerie.
And then further along, Rich the Pastor of the First Congregational Church of Tucson asked if I thought about seminary and I said no I hadn’t thought about it.
And then Katharine another Campus minister toward the end of college, asked if I thought about seminary and I said no I hadn’t.
Then at one point I was begging God, please tell me what to do with my life! Please I need to know! And then I realized wow all of these people are asking me this question. It made me think how much in life where we are asking: tell me what it is! And it’s all right there. But we just don’t see it! God is still speaking! The harder part is listening and taking it in.
Often people tell me they are waiting for answers. I am waiting for the Universe! But are we waiting for a lightning bolt? Instead of all of the stuff coming at us?
I know the old story in Genesis doesn’t tell us that Abram heard the message after he talked to five friends. But I wonder? And I wouldn’t be surprised if something like that was part of the story. I believe that is God still speaking.
And so he went. He chose to go, not knowing where. Willing to in the words we heard, at least be faithful and if he fails it will be while daring greatly.
How might God be saying Go! to you? How are you listening to the voice beyond ego, chattering mind, to tune into that deeper and higher thing, between us, the energy between us, within us that flows through the course of things?
And what if part of the bigger sense of this story, this ancient story still for us today is that part of a deep and joyful spiritual journey is an ongoing willingness to go, to make a change, to go deeper, to hear when the Universe says that it is time.
As Frank Yamada writes, “Go is God’s first word to Abram. And it sets up what will become a curious dynamic for the people of God forever after. The people of God are a traveling people.”
We are called to be a people on the move, the move deeper and the move beyond our familiars, a move calling us from where we are right now.
If we accept that God is still speaking and that we are on a journey without a map, how are we listening to the voice that is speaking to us? How are each of us collectively being asked to go? How might God be saying Go to you? To us?
So Beloved of God, Go do it, go leave it, go see it, go sit with it, go ask about it, go find it, go change it, go shape it, go lead it, go make it, go! What a gift that part of our task is to go deeper and further together, even into the great unknown. Go. May it be so. Amen.
©Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche